Rutgers NJAES and Board of Managers Host GMO Forum for New Jersey Farmers

"GMOs: Questions and Answers for New Jersey Farmers" was held on May 9 at the Rutgers EcoComplex.

The forum, “GMOs: Questions and Answers for New Jersey Farmers,” was held on May 9 at the Rutgers EcoComplex in Bordentown, NJ.

Since the early 1980s, the technology to select specific genetic traits from one organism and insert them into the genetic code of another organism, a process known as genetic engineering (GE) or modification (GM), has allowed scientists to create biological products that express traits that are otherwise not available in those products. When applied to agricultural commodities, this technology can offer farmers ways to improve their production.

The development of genetically engineered products has caused concern in consumers wary of the potential for inadvertent harm from consuming this enhanced food product or from introducing GM crops into the environment. The mix of messages in the media on the pros and cons of GM products has created an environment in which consumers and farmers alike have legitimate questions and concerns that need to be addressed. Farmers who are told of the advantages of GM products as a way to improve their production also face intense questioning from customers about the safety of GM crops. The need for farmers to have access to sound science and information to help them to make informed decisions about GM crops and how to respond to consumer concerns led the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) and its Board of Managers to host a forum, “GMOs: Questions and Answers for New Jersey Farmers,” at the Rutgers EcoComplex in Bordentown on May 9. [Read more...]

There’s Love for Local in New Jersey

NJ Ag mag photoDid you know New Jersey is a national leader in the local foods movement? We wouldn’t be called the Garden State if we didn’t take our agriculture seriously. Read more on how home cooks, restaurant chefs, school children and food pantries are tapping into Jersey Fresh produce at New Jersey Agriculture.

Seedy tale: Chinese researchers stole patented corn, U.S. prosecutors allege

The court documents read like something out of a Coen brothers film. Employees of the Chinese agricultural company Dabeinong Technology Group Co. (DBN) and a subsidiary sneaked through midwestern cornfields, U.S. prosecutors allege, stealthily gathering patented corn that they attempted to smuggle out of the United States in microwave popcorn boxes…Plant breeding research elsewhere in the world has benefited from advances in genomics and molecular markers, but plant breeding scientists in China do not work closely with researchers in those areas, says Carl Pray, an agriculture, food, and resource economics expert at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, who has worked in China.

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Beating the Bugs in the Bogs: Postdoctoral Student Studies Cranberry Resistance to Gypsy Moth

Elvira de Lange wrapping a cranberry plant with newly hatched gypsy moth larva.

Elvira de Lange wrapping a cranberry plant with newly hatched gypsy moth larva.

The gypsy moth is a destructive insect pest infesting New Jersey’s forests, destroying thousands of acres of trees. In the New Jersey Pinelands, the gypsy moth is also an occasional pest of cranberries. Gypsy moth caterpillars will readily eat the plants in outbreak years, when they are abundant in the Pinelands, like in 2007. The caterpillars prefer to feed on oaks, but when they encounter cranberry plants, their presence can have a devastating effect. Fortunately, since 2007, the caterpillars have rarely been seen in the New Jersey Pinelands. However, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared for their eventual return. Also, studying cranberry resistance against gypsy moth will teach us about the resistance of the plants against other important pests as well.

At the Rutgers Marucci Cranberry and Blueberry Research Center in Chatsworth, NJ, studies led by postdoctoral student Elvira de Lange are currently testing the insect resistance of seven varieties of cranberry, including the widely used Stevens variety and newer varieties such as Crimson Queen and Demoranville. De Lange started off wrapping the different plants in white polyester sleeves and adding a number of gypsy moth larvae that just hatched from the egg. A week later, she retrieved the larvae from the plants and weighed them, to evaluate whether or not they grew well on certain plants. Also, she scored the damage the gypsy moth evoked, as a measure for plant resistance. She is still evaluating the data, in order to know if certain cranberry varieties are more resistant than others. [Read more...]

Student Filmmaker Documents Jim Simon’s Horticultural Innovation Work in Zambia

Jeanpaul Isaacs, right,  recently went to Zambia to make a documentary about the work of James E. Simon, left. Photography: Nick Romanenko

Jeanpaul Isaacs, right, recently went to Zambia to make a documentary about the work of James E. Simon, left. Photography: Nick Romanenko

Rutgers Center for Digital Filmmaking recent graduate Jeanpaul Isaacs (SAS ’14, SC&I ’14) spent the final semester of his senior year working on a documentary on SEBS Professor of Plant Biology and Pathology Jim Simon’s work with African women farmers to develop markets for their indigenous crops in Zambia. Isaacs previous work was awarded best picture at Campus Moviefest 2013, leading him to a rare stint as a student filmmaker member of Team Oscar at this year’s Oscar award ceremony.  Simon also has been highly awarded for his work, receiving both an AIARD Special Service Award and the Scientific Excellence Award by the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development this year. Read more on Isaac’s activities at Rutgers Magazine.